Olivetti Lettera DL & Heady Topper by the Alchemist

This is a special blog entry for me… the Olivetti Lettera DL was my first 21st Century typewriter. I guess you could say it started all of this for me. And Heady Topper, the beer which perhaps cemented the double-IPA as a favorite style of beer for me.

Olivetti’s Letter DL

Olivetti was an Italy-based manufacturer of manual typewriters from early in the 20th Century through to the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. They moved to electric typewriters, but also followed the technology into purpose-made word processors and even early personal computers, eventually making IBM-compatible machines into the mid 90’s before dropping out of that business altogether. I will mention that my only other Olivetti device is an M10 “laptop” computer (essentially a clone of Tandy’s M100) which is powered by 4 AA batteries. It’s quite a nice typer in and of itself!

The thing that sets Olivetti typewriters apart, it appears, is their design. Noted industrial designers like Ettore Sottsass and Marcello Nizzoli were employed by Olivetti, and as a result their typewriters are some of the best known and most sought after by collectors, for their different, distinctive designs. The most famous may be the Valentine portable typewriter, which is highly collectible.

The first typewriter that I literally ever purchased was this Lettera DL.  Here is the story of my re-introduction to typing.

olivetti_dl_102olivetti_dl_typecast_0102olivetti_dl_typecast_0202olivetti_dl_typecast_03My Lettera DL has a serial number of 7140205, a higher number than the others listed in the Typerwriter Database, which makes like think it was likely manufactured late in 1973 or in 1974. Although I have never seen a Lettera 33 model in person, they appear identical in pictures. I am not sure what technical differences may be lurking beneath the surface between the 33 and the so-called “DeLuxe” model.

Alchemist’s Heady Topper

The Alchemist is one of those craft brewers that becomes almost something of a fable. By that, I mean you read about them, and you hear people talk about them (particularly if you attend beer festivals and chat with far-flung beer nerds from all over), but if you’re not local, how do you ever know? Russian River brewing in California is a similar case. With limited distribution, and a rabid local fan base willing to buy up all the product they can produce, it’s no wonder that their wares never make it here to Toronto, Ontario.

It’s amazing how well this can pairs visually with the Lettera DL, isn’t it?


I first got to try this fantastic beer when my friends Doug and Ralph had brought some back from a Vermont beer-run. I was utterly amazed! This summer on a family road trip to the East Coast we happened to pass through Vermont, so I was sure to pick up some of their amazing beer.  It is interesting to note that, because of the demand for their product, they have a limit on how many four-packs you can buy in one visit!

Starting in the early 2000’s the Alchemist has been gradually growing, adding to their facilities and slowly (and smartly) adding to their capacity. They specialize in hopppy beers, so IPAs are a natural choice for them. As they have expanded they have been careful not to compromise in their “concerted effort to provide the freshest, hoppiest packaged IPA on the market.”

Heady Topper is a double-India Pale Ale (or DIPA), which means it’s strong and bitter. But where some DIPAs, and even IPAs, can draw attention to their bitterness in a way that drives away the casual beer drinker, Heady Topper is really amazingly well-balanced. When you taste it, there’s a resinous character, but also some citrus notes. As it passes over your tongue you will get some of the malt character, and it finishes with a not-overpowering bitterness. It is the definition of balance! Because of this, the website Rate Beer has it rated at 100.

Focal Bager is the junior version of this, a IPA (not a double), and it is also excellent. In fact, if you are going to get to a place that sells The Alchemist’s beer, I recommend you try everything you can get there.

Until next time, happy typing and safe drinking!


3 thoughts on “Olivetti Lettera DL & Heady Topper by the Alchemist

  1. oooh, an Olivetti M10? I’ve been looking for a QWERTY one of them for years, to join my pair of T200’s and a Model 100. (I have a fondness for the unkillable, instant-on and surprisingly still useful Tandy/Kyotronic 80c85 laptops as well). I’m intrigued by the tilting screen. (:


    1. My M10 is QWERTY, and I do use it somewhat regularly, I keep a journal in it. I transfer the text over to a computer using a custom null-modem type cable to serial-to-USB interface (it’s less complicated than it sounds!). The keyboard is nice, and the tilting screen really does make it more useful than the Tandys it was modeled from. It really is a nice little machine, and ten years ago they seemed quite common and cheap on ebay, but this technology doesn’t age as well as typewriter tech does, so I suspect they are becoming more and more rare!


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